Monday, August 18, 2008

Where Has All the Passion Gone?

I’m remembering a Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode in which Detective Bobby Goren goads an extremely cool and affect-less perp to try and get some sort of reaction out of him. The perp finally breaks. “Now see, that,” says Goren, "is affect.”

The 2008 Biennial at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art is a curious mix of concepts that left me and my friend asking how one accounts for the cool temperature of recent art. There are plenty of obsessions with the vernacular, with alternative materials. and with greatly reduced palettes. Irony has given way to self-deprecation. The influence of post-modern theory is everywhere evident in the careful efforts of artists who have been schooled first in making straight A’s and then in crafting a product.

So where is all the passion? It’s at Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland. Passion luxuriates in Nancy Wissemann-Widrig’s paintings of shallow water. It bounces off the stones in Alan Crichton’s pastel images of a waterfall. It’s there in the gestural abstractions of Anne Ayvaliotis. And most of all, passion, and life, radiate from Kathleen Florance’s large format charcoal drawings of bees and butterflies. These artists not only know their craft, they love their subjects and they love the difficult act of making art. And that, sez I, is passion.

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